Fuchai’s Vassals: Turning Gallbladders into Strength

“The West doesn’t understand China” is a frequent phrase in Chinese-Western arguments (and to a lesser extent in other Chinese-foreign arguments, too). The phrase is a wild card in ideological conflicts – it usually comes from Chinese officials,  established Chinese scholars, or members of the Chinese public who subscribe to this idea. It may come from non-Chinese sinologists who subscribe to the idea, too – after all, they see it as their job to explain China.

The way foreign academics who – seemingly or really – argue in favor of Beijing’s position on human rights are often referred to as “China experts” by China’s media would suggest that you only understand China once you understand that China did no harm, doesn’t do harm, won’t do harm, and, for the kindness of its nature, can’t do harm. When Chinese dissidents end up in jail, this can’t mean that the state inflicted injustice on them. It only means that now it is time to start seeking the convict’s faults, especially when the judges who handed down the sentence haven’t been specific in their verdict. When the verdict was vague, it must have been because the convict poses a mortal danger to the motherland. The degree of secrecy and intransparency applied in the process is a trustworthy indicator of the threat the convict poses to the motherland. And when the judiciary process is then criticized from abroad, that would seal the proof that there is a Western conspiracy behind the dissident’s ways.

China’s judiciary is in frequent need for wild cards, to close perceived gaps in the country’s laws – whenever such gaps work to the disadvantage of those in power. Not only the courts, but China’s rulers themselves, too, are in frequent need for wild cards. And what is sometimes referred to as China’s “civil society” – as if there could be a true nationwide public under a totalitarian regime – is in frequent need of wild cards, too. Probably one of the wildest cards China has produced this year is the Confucius Peace Prize, an alternative Chinese (Nobel) peace prize. The government itself has kept a genteel formal distance to the Confucius Peace Prize committee’s workings, but the civil society which, apparently in cooperation with the ministry of culture, produced the Prize is still its immediate public diplomacy product.

The Confucius Peace Prize is a PR disaster. And while our media do often make a mountain out of a molehill (after all, neither of the jury members seems to have a particularly high profile), this disaster deserves all the limelight it has gotten. It highlights what is wrong with the official Chinese reaction to Liu Xiaobo‘s Oslo award, and with much of the Chinese public’s reaction.

The Confucius Peace Prize sets out from the position that China can’t be – morally – wrong. And if she could be wrong in some details, she can’t be wrong at all any more once Western conspiracies back an outsider in China. The West, that’s a fairly general Chinese view, wants to exercise its remaining power to sabotage China’s peaceful rise. There can’t be another explanation, because it’s exactly what China would do herself, if she was in the West’s position. And strictly domestically speaking, an outsider in China is wrong by the very fact that he or she is an outsider.

The idea that the Nobel Peace Prize is an anti-Chinese conspiracy leaves the general Western admiration for outsiders out of the account. Can you think of large crowds of Chinese people expressing admiration for a man who provides – Chinese – officials with a platform to leak state secrets?

It’s no coincidence either that the Confucius Peace Prize went to Lien Chan, a man  the jury considers a Chinese national, and who may consider himself a Chinese national, too.

The jury wasn’t well-prepared for emerging publicly. They were certainly in a hurry. The Confucius Peace Prize couldn’t wait for another year. There was a sense of ideological competition at play, and a lot of anger.

The death blow the prize suffered didn’t come from the audience of press people who had the time of their life in Tan Changliu‘s comedian press conference. The spectacular and entertaining implosion was the prize’s built-in device. The prize does what nationalist Chinese hate most: it apes the West – it apes the Nobel Peace Prize. It apes the procedure, it apes Western-style public relations, and it apes what the Confucius Peace Prize believes are “the West’s ulterior motives” – trying to steal the  limelight from a competitor. The Confucius Peace Prize came – and had to come – just ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. It will – most probably – be short-lived, because it failed to serve its purpose this time, and because next-year’s Nobel Peace Prize probably won’t require another flurry of Chinese “civil-society” activism.

I don’t think that Tan Changliu would be plain stupid. Rather, he was ideologically and morally blinded by his view that China can’t be wrong. That was the outset, and from there, it had to go wrong anyway.

But there is something that many people outside China indeed don’t understand about China. JR isn’t claiming that he has the full picture. But in discussions with Chinese fenqings, with not-so-fenqing Chinese people, and with foreign expats in China, it has dawned on him that the biggest problem is that China’s rulers feel that they can’t leave anything to chances. The process of reform and opening is an engineering process. Not only the process itself need to be engineered. The CCP’s totalitarian nature prescribes that every individual’s conscience needs to be engineered, too, to pretty much one universal blueprint.

The CCP has understood that its own ideological treasure chambers are poorer than its  Palace Museum, when compared to Taiwan’s National Palace Museum. It has reacted to that, in that they have accroached China’s history in general now, rather than continuing to discard most of what happened prior to 1949.

There may be arguments within the CCP leadership as to how China’s development should continue. But the current party line, as it manifests itself in its daily business of government, isn’t about human rights at all. To the CCP, the issue of individual liberties is a (revocable, if need be) modernization technicality, not a human rights issue. That’s why the law is deemed faulty, whenever it offers no convenient operating handle to silence shitlisted members of the Chinese “public”. It never seems to dawn on those who run the country, or on too many Chinese citizens, that these “gaps” are the law itself. It’s the nature of the law that it limits what the powerful can do to the relatively powerless.

Chinese officials sometimes sneer at foreign misgivings about a stronger China – even if the criticism is specific. Many decisions taken by Beijing which would be domestically indefensible otherwise, are successfully justified with making Chinese citizens feel afraid of the outside world, especially America, and possibly Europe, too. This creates an impression on many Chinese that there is no other option than – sometimes lawless – repression by those who themselves write the law. And that’s why fear and loathing is the only thing many Chinese can think of as Western motivations when Westerners are acting in an “unfriendly” way. And if non-Western foreigners act in such ways, a Western conspiracy (or some cultural imperialism) can’t be far behind it.

Jeremiah Jenne, in the Granite Studio, suggests that the best way Beijing could have reacted to the Norwegian award to Liu Xiaobo would have been

to say nothing and save a little dignity; simply release a statement that while they disagree with the decision, they respect the right of the Norwegians to award the prize to whomever makes their glands swell and hearts go pitter-patter…then put a bag over Liu Xiaοbο’s head and put him on the first flight to Newark.  Problem solved.

But I believe that he’s missing the point. Jenne is indeed guilty of not understanding China, or at least guilty of not understanding the workings of its dictatorship. Liu Xiaobo’s award came as unwelcome news to the CCP indeed, but China’s leaders are  actually making the best of it. They stokes nationalist feelings among the  population, and get many of the angry citizens to rally around the CCP.

Of course there would be other options, such as the one Jenne suggests. But they wouldn’t be equally useful for Beijing at this point in time – and every organization in China, from the eery “Confucius” prize jury to the propaganda department, tends to seize the opportunities of the moment now, rather than appyling more far-sighted strategies.

The Economist, a magazine which may or may not understand China, focuses on one story and two interpretations this week. The story is about Goujian, the King of Yue (越王勾踐). It’s an old story, and my first impression is that the Economist has recounted in a more colorful way than it is usually narrated, but the two interpretations are relevant, anyway. Goujian, the magazine says,

was taken prisoner after a disastrous campaign against King Fuchaio, his neighbour to the north. Goujian was put to work in the royal stables where he bore his captivity with such dignity that he gradually won Fuchai’s respect. After a few years Fuchai let him return home as his vassal.1)

Goujian, after his return home, slept on brushwood and hung a gall bladder in his room, licking it daily to feed his appetite for revenge – and succeeded in the end.

The unnamed author with the Economist cites two ways to read Goujian’s story. The first one:

The king who slept on brushwood and tasted gall2) is as familiar to Chinese as King Alfred and his cakes are to Britons, or George Washington and the cherry tree are to Americans. In the early 20th century he became a symbol of resistance against the treaty ports, foreign concessions and the years of colonial humiliation.1)

The second reading would be Paul Cohen‘s, who is quoted as saying that

students are told that if they want to succeed they must be like King Goujian, sleeping on brushwood and tasintg gall – that great accomplishments come only with sacrifice and unyielding purpose. This Goujian represents self-improvement and dedication, not revenge.1)

Currently, China’s leaders are operating both these interpretations. The question isn’t which one is in effect – it is which one is used to serve the accomplishment aimed at by the other.

That wouldn’t need to be China’s way. Watchfulness always makes sense. Paranoia doesn’t. When an overseas award to a citizen of an established nuclear power with a lot of economic success is deemed a threat there, something fundamental must be wrong with the nerves of that citizen’s country.  Archer Wang, apparently an ethnic Chinese student outside China, wrote some time ago:

I still remember a question on one of the numerous physics tests I took in a middle school in China. “How many people of Chinese descent have been awarded a Nobel Prize?”
I guessed four. The correct answer was six, all science prizes. Not one was still a Chinese citizen when the prize was awarded.
“Our nation’s future depends on you,” the teacher said. “No Chinese person has received the Nobel Prize while they were still Chinese.”
[…]
After years of hearing their government demonize the West and human rights, the vast majority of Chinese see these awards as the hostile gestures of foreign forces aimed at interfering in China’s internal affairs. Yet, like me, many Chinese regard the Nobel as the highest honor presented to an individual.
That is why the Chinese authorities have made such astounding efforts to conceal from the public news of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Liu Xiaobo, the first “Chinese” Chinese to receive a Nobel.

Liu Xiaobo was a member of the first group of students after restoration of the college entrance examination after the Cultural Revolution. Maybe he tasted gall, too. But then again, maybe he was a weird pervert who actually enjoyed his studies.

What’s for sure is that Beijing and those who subscribe to its condemnation of Liu Xiaobo deem this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate one of  Fuchai’s willing vassals.

____________

Notes

1) The Economist, December 4th, 2010, “A Special Report on China’s Place in the World”, page 3

2) 臥薪嚐膽

____________

Related
China’s Answer to Nobel Mystifies Its Winner, NY Times, Dec 8, 2010
Liu Xiaobo’s 300 colonies,Third Tone Devil, November 5, 2010
Impious Sons: Eminent and Treasonous, October 13, 2010

19 Responses to “Fuchai’s Vassals: Turning Gallbladders into Strength”

  1. “he was ideologically and morally blinded by his view that China can’t be wrong.”

    blindness can come from hatred. hatred makes you a fool, and that’s what this guy was, on the day.

    also, for people like him, i suspect that they have no basic concern for ideas like truth. fundamentally they seem more driven by calculations of power, but they know how to lie.

    all i can say with certainty is that the ccp brand of evil is very intense and very sad…

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  2. A fool, yes. But fools can be quite intelligent, and we all have our blind spots. The striking thing about China is that so many people there have pretty much the same blind spots.
    The Confucius Peace Prize smells a bit like if a bunch of political careerists wanted to earn themselves some fame, but I seem to understand that most of the jury aren’t that young anymore.
    So I guess they were plain serious.
    As for the CCP’s practise in government on all levels, I think its rule has created a lot of grudges which are conveniently projected on countries and people abroad (that’s less risky than addressing the actual pain).
    But how many of those grudges are really much older than the CCP (and how many of those again, in turn, can be ascribed to “the days of imperialism and national humiliation” would be another question, difficult to answer.
    This essay by Deng Xiaomang, translated by Prof David Kelly and published on China Elections, might give us a bit of an idea of how different currents of past humiliations – pre- and post-1949 – may actually interact (and, I believe, reinforce each other). Today’s humiliations, yet again, would still be another story. Do you know a concise history of Chinese humiliation (under this or another title), be it on the internet, be it in the bookstores?

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  3. i would have understood the article better if the author wasnt so … lithe …

    may fourth is almost worthless as a concept, cos it wasnt much of a movement at all. there were a bunch of movements…

    for me what was highlighted is the confusion behind responses to the modern world.

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  4. Deng was born in 1948 – hadn’t he been lithe, I doubt he’d still be writing these days.
    There’s a lot of confusion indeed, but many legends are considered facts in China. It’s a search for a narrative, if you like, and not only the CCP is in search of one. And the legends around 5-4, just as the legend around 6-4, are shaping the ways people view their country and the world.
    If there’s ever going to be a civil society in China that deserves the name, it would be thanks to people like Deng, I guess.
    I think the way he writes also makes sure that it is politically more tolerable. For sure, you or I could write in in rather plain language. 😉

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  5. One of your better posts. Thank you.

    Like

  6. And still no Pulitzer Prize for JR.

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  7. JR. Thanks for this back post. Your comments on 1)the routine technico-engineering process shaping and organising the individual conscience and 2) the deliberate legal gaps caught my eye.

    1) reminds me those sections of Foucaults Discipline and Punish dealing with modernity, while the Cultural Revolution and before could be aligned with the pre-modern semiological regime of political punishment as public spectacle.ie grand guignol exercises designed to scare the bejesus out of the observing crowd.

    Anyway, something like that. Lost all interest in Foucault et al decades ago, but hopefully some bushy tailed academic will come forward with a theorised account of the defining moments in the Chinese legal system since 1949. And it will draw heavily on Foucault concepts and methodology.

    Punishment in China today hides behind walls and in black jails.

    Probably the last instance of punishment as a public shaming spectacle was the the big prostitute naming/shaming in Shenzhen a few years ago, and was it roundly condemmed by the general public as a denial of their human rights.

    Finally, when I think again, my divide between the two eras does conflict with Foucaults argument, since torture away from the public eye still takes place.

    Oh well, back to the drawing board.

    On a lighter note, had a student who was a honcho in the intermediate court in Fujian. She gave me a few examples of few major league corruption cases in the local govt. When I suggested that offenders should be executed in front of their staff (like those pep talks given to waiters working in big resturaunts before the start of business) and the body be dumped outside the family apartment, she was aghast. Told me it was a barbaric idea, and anyway China was modernising its legal system.

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  8. Linking the process to Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish” is an interesting idea – one I haven’t yet thought of. What strikes me first is that the book was published in France after the ’68ers revolts, in the middle of the “Red Army Fraction’s” (RAF) attacks and kidnappings in Germany (catchword: Stammheim), and the “Red Brigade’s” in Italy.

    Many Chinese researchers would probably disagree with Foucault’s description of the law as an extension of the sovereign’s “body” – I guess “prosecution” would be seen more as some sort of “family matter” in China, or as a practise within the framework of the Three Cardinal Guides (sangang).

    For once, I’d accept the Chinese argument that “China, after all, is different“, and that its story must be told in a way different from Europe’s.

    Wang Zhicheng’s reference to either Confucianism or legalism as carriers for narratives of history / sociology (I’m no scientist, but my impression is that the humanities are narratives, or depend on narratives) may only be one of many “Chinese” options, though. There seems to be no mainstream, and attempts like Wang’s to Confucianism seem to be feeling their way forward in a pretty obscure landscape.

    A funny thing is that when Chinese people get mad at Western “schoolmastery”, they’d often argue at the same time that China were moving along exactly the same path of evolution, as did the West. I’m wondering if not, in a certain way, your gross recommendations to the Fujian student made her feel good, in that it was an occasion on which she’d be much more “civilized” than you.

    Following Foucault’s logic, I’d believe that for now, the Chinese state believes it to be more economical to hide “discipline and punishment” from the public – but the totalitarian scaffolding of the Mao era is still in place, and if things will improve further, remain as they are, or slide back to the 1960s will largely depend on the future path taken by the Chinese economy, which you mentioned earlier.

    But the economy isn’t everything. What people want, and what leaders want will matter, too. I guess Chinese dialectics were never as materialist as Russian marxism. Volition has mattered, too, all along the way since the 1930s, or even earlier.

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  9. Re: the future path of the economy. I had to sign up to get the full read which takes us into areas we trolls rarely venture.

    J:\What might happen in China this year – McKinsey Quarterly – Economic Studies – Productivity & Performance.mht

    BTW. I was winding up that student in a moment of pedagogical boredom, but she did get thru the Beijing selection process and went onto p/g legal studies in the States. Friend for life (he he), but did enjoy the high-end Japanese nosh up.

    Going to return to the Foucault thingy after a sabbatical, and caught you going lowbrow on myloawai. Extra homework as punishment for you JR. Cheers.

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  10. caught you going lowbrow on myloawai
    Think of me as Zhuang Zhou II, King Tubby.Some light-hearted happy-gathering is the other side of the coin.

    Btw, mylaowai.com isn’t necessarily as lowbrow as you might first think. Recommendable read: “This Is Your Life, Wang XianSheng”.

    I’m looking forward to more Foucault discussion.

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  11. Okay JR. Read your recommendation and giggled….the existential nothingness of KTV sex and the family monsters from hell.

    Since my link didnt take, shall try again:
    The main link –

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/01/6-predictions-about-china-in-2011/70160/

    Here is a summary:

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/investors-warn-of-china-crisis-20110127-1a716.html

    My point in pursuing this line – how the economy will pan out in the next few years – it is the big game in town. All the rest of the stuff noted by the usual sites is so much to-be-expected fairy floss, which you can pretty well anticipate before reading the detail.

    In fact, someone with bookmaking experience at Happy Valley should be opening an economic sports book dealing with those linked predictions over a five year time frame. Time stamped predictions accepted and the winner magnificiently rewarded… a Carribean condo, a floating gin palace and good looking companions of choice according to the winners sexual orientation.

    Word to the wise, pls note the absence of bear investment sentiment generally.

    – imported inflation, excessive liquidity, inflows of hot money (rising value of the rmb), massive local govt dodgy debt (Victor Shih); food security under strain, the inability of Beijing to enforce its diktats on provinces/counties who raise their revenue and red envelopes thru land sales, housing prices, high domestic savings and a resistance to spend, and importantly, the fact that domestic savings are handed over to r/e developers and SOEs for the benefit of the latter.

    This is a explosive Sichuan hotpot which sooner or later will go thru the economic digestive system like …..crikey, it beggars the imagination.

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  12. Interestingly, short-selling is mostly prohibited in mainland China, the Economist wrote on January 20 (this link should be available for a few weeks or up to a year, before it will be only accessible for subscribers). Printed in the January 22 edition, p. 80, the article also contains some forecasts for this year, and these should also affect foreign (Australian, too) companies deeply involved with China, not least mining corporations, of course.

    That said, the trend of “shortening China” is still small, even outside China, where it would be entirely legal. If bubbles will burst this year, or some time within the coming five years, or not at all, apparently still remains to be seen (although I guess there will need to be ugly market corrections). The Sydney Morning Herald does paint a much darker picture than the Economist, indeed.

    I’ve been an occasional reader of Michael Pettis‘ blog in the past two years or so, and he’s always been rather cautious about China’s economic prospects. Victor Shih, too. It was only his information about the big Chinese stimulus programs made me aware that while the central government looked fiscally good, it was local governments – more precisely, their market vehicles (the local investment companies) – which would incur the debts a stimulus took. Either way, it’s the Chinese public sector, and it looks kind of funny in that light that Beijing would criticize the US for an irresponsible approach to reviving the American economy.

    Germany took its first steps in 2003 to make its economy (and competitiveness) more sustainable. It wasn’t about bubbles, rather about wages and demography. Britain is adjusting right now, and France will have to follow (raising the age at which French people can become pensioners by modest two years was a modest first step there). Italy is a topic I’d rather not discuss – I’m wondering how Spain can be under such pressure, while Italy is still being left alone.

    China’s challenges are much greater – its demographic problems aren’t even at the center of attention yet. But as long as they can manage the bubble bursts somehow, by keeping society “stable”, there is long-term potential for growth, even for growth from within China. It will need to depend on trade surpluses to some extent, as every country with an ageing (and therefore naturally money-saving) society, but demand from the richer provinces can help the “development of the (Chinese) west, i.e. the poorer provinces and territories. There lies a potential foundation for sustained growth.

    The sticking point will be the preparedness of the central and local governments to help the poorer provinces grow by demand from eastern provinces. I’m getting back to the last three lines of my January 26 comment here: What people want, and what leaders want will matter, too. If the Chinese state is not only controlling thought, but really able to control business behavior, too, it should be able to set the course for this domestic kind of demand even before the expected crunch sets in.

    The Economist article (see first link in this comment) cites “bears” (who) “believed that the high degree of state direction in the Chinese economy was not an advantage, as many admirers liked to imagine, but a chronic weakness that fostered opacity, corruption and the misallocation of capital”.

    That may be so, and there seem to be serious clashes of interest between the central government and local governments when it comes to business. But if the state should turn out to be strong enough to push domestic demand in the long run, and master the probable series of bubble bursts in the shorter run, China’s economic future might look almost as bright as propaganda likes to paint it.

    Don’t you think so?

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  13. JR. Thanks for the closely argued reply. What you describe is a awful lot for Beijing to negotiate, esp due to the profound structural imbalances existing between coastal regions and poorer inner provinces, but here is a piece which supports your overall line of reasoning.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/davos-diary/2011/01/what_is_the_china_model.html

    Yes, the Oz economy’s welfare is inextricably tied to China, minerals and it now looks like there will be a massive uptick in grain sales.

    Water and food security issues are here right now, and the omens don’t look good. (The aquifers of a whole province have vitually been exhausted to keep Beijing alive.)

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/drought-hits-grain-crops-as-china-struggles-to-curb-prices/story-e6frg6so-1225996398139

    I also question Beijing’s ability to control business and local govt/cadre behaviour at the local country level. Too much local self interest and they are pretty good at putting on a dog and pony show when getting an imperial inspection.

    Nah, you can time stamp me here, and I am looking forward to um… really dissipating myself on that lavicious Carribean prize previously described.

    Those 10 to 40 year demographic changes will be trumped by immediate water, food (real estate) problems in my amateur view. There is a limit to what Pharaonic engineering water rediversions solutions can do.

    Finally, I am sure that Beijing is looking at the unfolding situation in Egypt with interest, esp the efficacy of the internet kill switch. Its a hard call since, in de-communicating the rioting unwashed, it doesn’t do a lot for your export trade either. Cheers.

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  14. I can time-stamp you here? What does that mean?

    I think that Kevin Lu says what most people in his function and in charge of the Asia-Pacific markets would say. Especially these lines from his last paragraph made me laugh:

    Effective coordination between Chinese banks and companies could be seen as creating an uneven playing field by foreign competitors. Long-term strategic decision-making and less reliance on short-term cash flows could spell mercantilism abroad.

    Lu could have described the Chinese model as mercantilist through seven preceding paragraphs, but his only worry is that mercantilism might occur abroad. Don’t lump this blog with Kevin Lu, King Tubby, will you?!

    I’m not really thinking highly of the CCP’s unusually large policy tool kit, and the potential in China’s west is something Lu didn’t mention. That the central government will be able to find the right balance between the potential of the richer province and the needs of the poorer ones is something that I believe is possible – I’m not taking it for granted. My rough guess is that chances that it will happen successfully and to the scale social “stability” would require are no better than fifty per cent. If there was a real political alternative to the CCP today, the way the CCP was one to the KMT in the 1930s and 1940s, I’d rate the CCP’s survival chances even worse.

    As for the environmental problems in China, I also agree with you that China won’t be able to fully control them. Beijing may not like the idea, but to some extent, the country will depend on food imports. Which should pose no unanswerable problems, provided that their industries develop successfully, and can afford such imports, which will certainly become more expensive in the coming years.

    There is one more thing that will make the business of government difficult for Beijing. That’s not so much the anger of the people – they may turn out to be long-suffering people -, but the party’s own paranoia. A recent BBC documentary says that Soviet agents were required to count the number of lights that were kept switched on at London’s defense ministry at nighttime, for clues if a war was under preparation. When the American and British governments got that information, they both toned down their criticism of Moscow, to alleviate such fears to some extent. I don’t think that the CCP leaders are less worried than Soviet leaders used to be, re threats from without – or from within China.

    Yes – they will be watching Tunisia and Egypt closely, even though I believe that they have little to fear.

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  15. JR. I certainly agree with your last comment. Egypt shut down most of the internet and phone network as it was a major medium for the demonstrators to plan their reet tactics.

    As I noted elsewhere, Chinas security officers embedded in their Egypt embassy will be particularly interested in the crowds ability to continue their assault once their communication medium was removed.

    Secondly, they are also interested in the role of the army now that it has taken centre stage and mostly pushed the police to the margins. Will it enforce authority or will it side with the the people?

    Beijing’s domestic security apparatus, which cost 75 billion last year (defence 80 billion), always tries to draw some conlusions from events such as this.

    Other than that, most of the discussions going around on Tunisia, Egypt and China are not very illuminating.

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  16. Haha, and I certainly agree with you that most of the discussions going around on Tunisia, Egypt and China are not very illuminating! That’s why I haven’t even asked the question in a post myself yet. While it’s true that every rabbit will bite once it has been excited long enough, and that some basic peace of mind is important for people from everywhere, China isn’t only “different” from the West, but from the Middle East, too. Apart from some very basic factors, comparisons don’t make a lot of sense.

    But of course, I’m very interested in what is going on on the other side of the Alps – and to draw the line between southern Europe and Northern Africa wouldn’t be quite as easy as to draw one between there and China. The more one would look into it, the more intersections between the northern and southern (and eastern) side of the Mediterranean one would find.

    I’m sure that there are some surveys in the scientific pipeline.

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